Beloved child of the Great Mother, the Ghomorin was a wanderer, his time divided between two worlds. In his home of La’syrus, he acted as story dispensary for eager children, the most persistent of whom he fondly called little sun. In foreign Eden, he fulfilled his role in a rather different capacity, offering wisdom to whomsoever sought him out: be they human, faerie, or elsewise. In either world, he was a great, lone figure—a giant tortoise of sorts—who carried the weight of a wizened tree on his back. Yet however much he loved the land of his birth, his heart called him away again and again to the seed of the Stars, abandoned ages past by its gods.
It was there, in the southwestern jungles of Ludambi, that he encountered Lamani.
He saw her first from a distance as he wended his weary way through the trees, little more than a glimpse of shadow moving amongst shadow. Here was a place unlike any the Ghomorin had previously known, where each tree lifted its roots on proud display, where the undergrowth often bristled with long, bladed leaves, where one could just as easily see a vine in place of a patient snake, where vibrant colors exploded in every direction. Any plant that did not grow monstrously tall found some other way to adapt to its environment, so that everything around him sighed with life while each step in the rain damp soil caressed his feet with a small pulse of energy as if the heartbeat of the land begged itself heard.
Next the dryad appeared, it was in full, standing directly in his path. Without knowing the nature of her tree, the Ghomorin nevertheless knew from her shape and color that it must be mature and in good health. “I’ve never seen you before,” she said. Her eyes devoured him, from tail to tree, as she paced a restrained circle about him. Though he craned his head to watch her, her eyes never wavered from their close inspection. Where the line between distrust and curiosity was drawn, he could not tell.
“I’ll leave your piece of the forest,” he offered, and like an anchor drawn to ship, he unsettled his old bones.
He stilled at her touch, a wave of emotion flooding his veins so fully that he reacted instinctively, gathering it up and pushing it out in a wave of energy that blurred the boundaries between the forest’s vernal colors. Without looking, he knew the leaves from his tree had changed colors and were beginning to tumble down—could vividly imagine the pale, grayish yellow they would be. “What … What happened?” she asked. She sounded confused. The film of her ash-yellow emotion clung to his tongue, tenacious and bittering. When he turned, he found her clutching one of the leaves tightly in her fingers, staring at it as if she couldn’t fathom how it existed.
The Ghomorin watched her with full moon eyes. “You’re holding your emotions—the strongest of them anyway.” With a heavy sigh, he dropped anchor once more. Her silent plea resounded still within him, begging him to stay awhile and provide companionship, however temporary. “I’m one of the neighbors.” When he detected no sense of recognition, he amended, “Humans sometimes call us spirits.”
Her mouth formed an ‘o’ as the leaf slipped forgotten through her fingers. “You’re a nameless neighbor.”
“The Ghomorin, actually.”
Her laughter was like a sudden fall of rain. Her steps were zephyrous and hands callow when she cautiously stepped atop his shell and pressed her palms to the trunk of his twisting tree. From her to him, more measured than before—awe, curiosity, sadness underneath. It flowed through him, washing over his heart, and he released it again, picturing the mottled leaves she would find unfurling and falling above her head. Slips of warm, golden color, their rich hue occasionally interrupted with a deep, gray-blue. He felt her stretch, standing on her toes, then crouch, curling into his roots.
When she spoke, her voice was small. “Lamani.”
Lamani brought the Ghomorin to her tree, a healthy kapok with branches so high that not even its dryad could reach them without help. When she discovered that the Ghomorin had never visited the jungles of Ludambi before, she procured tropical fruits and nectared drinks for his tasting. She showed him wonders. She presented to him butterflies that looked like flowers, flowers that blossomed without soil, trees that looked as if they could stand up and walk away at any moment, beautiful deadly creatures, the hidden habitats of local wildlife—all of it within the slack of her invisible tether to her tree.
The seasons passed without any appreciable change while they shared words. She taught him the names of the life around them as well as their natures, and he taught her the language of color. He regaled her with stories of La’syrus and her residents, of the parts of Eden he’d visited and what he’d found there. She revealed to him more on the capricious fae.
Each time Lamani touched him, the Ghomorin felt the ash of her loneliness, no matter how well disguised.
Each time, the Ghomorin found new reason to remain on Eden.
And so the Ghomorin abided.
“I pray to Roedanya,” she said one night.
They talked about the Stars as much as anything else: the exalted Four whose likenesses governed the Sieson, ill-fated Amhrosine, roving Khalanthris, and more. Eden’s gods were numerous and varied; they had as many names, as many faces, as there were pinpricks in the true-black sky. Once, a faerie could look up and point, matching a distant fleck of light to a name, but that was a legend of a time no one remembered anymore, not even the Ghomorin.
He could point to a light though, ancient and bright, and feel the beckoning of a mother.
“And I to La’syrus,” he replied.
The Ghomorin left.
And so Lamani wept.
Kristen Shea is a literature student in Mississippi whose poetry has appeared in Asylum Magazine. Despite doing little else than reading and writing in her spare time, people apparently find her interesting. She is a word collector, cat lover, and volcano enthusiast.